Arsene Wenger called it "a goal in a million" but those Tottenham Hotspur supporters who were in White Hart Lane last night to witness 19-year-old Danny Rose set them on their way to a remarkable victory may feel that the hyperbole does not quite do the evening justice.
It was always going to take something special to end Spurs' run of 11 years without a victory over their bitter rivals from north London and last night they found that elusive missing ingredient. Some will say that it was the moment that Rose's 25-yard volley left his left foot in the 10th minute to beat Manuel Almunia that the locals started to believe that at last the hex could be broken.
There is a lot of unnecessary unpleasantness in this fixture – most of it directed at Sol Campbell and Wenger – but for the majority who did not play a part in all that this was a sensational derby matched played at a breakneck pace from the start. That the new hero of White Hart Lane was a young Englishman with a bright future was just another pleasing detail on a memorable night.
Rose set the tone for night with his goal but it was Heurelho Gomes, Spurs' Brazilian goalkeeper, who closed the deal for the home side. In a late blitz by Arsenal led by their emergency substitute Robin van Persie, Gomes made four breathtaking saves from attempts on goal that might, on another day, even have won this game for Arsenal.
It was a triumphant night for Harry Redknapp who follows four managerial predecessors at Spurs who never put one over Arsenal in the league. His team took advantage of the injuries that have ravaged Arsenal's season and he picked a side that played an intense, unrelenting game just three days after their collapse against Portsmouth in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.
It means that Spurs live to fight on in the battle for fourth place against Manchester City, who they now trail by just one point. If they are to haul themselves into that last Champions League qualification place then they will have to beat Chelsea on Saturday and possibly even Manchester United on 25 April but last night no one was dwelling on the size of the task ahead.
In defeat Wenger was generous, conceding the title and leaving his players with something to think about. The Arsenal manager praised the towering performance of Campbell – who would have scored were it not for a Gomes save near the end – and in doing so pointed out that some of his players could learn a lesson on what it took to win titles.
There were poor performances from players such as Bacary Sagna, Denilson and Emmanuel Eboué, and yet another injury blow for Arsenal when Thomas Vermaelen was carried off after 19 minutes with a calf strain that rules him out for up to three weeks. Arsenal really are limping to the end of the season with half a team and precious little to play for apart from second place.
The backstory to Rose's arrival at Spurs for £2m from Leeds United starts with the infamous poaching of two young Leeds academy players by Chelsea in 2005. Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo eventually cost Chelsea £5m but the third young prospect at Elland Road was Rose and he decided against a move to Stamford Bridge, finally joining Spurs.
Taiwo is now at Carlisle United, Woods is injured but Rose has at last announced himself on the stage in some style. Injured, he was replaced at half-time with David Bentley but he had already done enough by then to be remembered forever at White Hart Lane.
The goal began with a second corner in succession from Spurs, struck by their other goalscorer on the night, Gareth Bale. Almunia punched to what looked like a safe distance but slipped over as he landed. It gave him fractionally too little time to get back up and stop the sweetly-struck volley that Rose had hit first time as the ball dropped.
Arsenal fought their way back into the game at the end of the second half but Wenger would later bemoan their inability to convert that possession into anything meaningful in front of goal. The timing of Spurs' second, just one minute after half-time, was crucial to changing the rhythm of the game.
Bale's goal was made by a wonderfully-angled through ball by Jermain Defoe that divided the Spurs defence. It was hard to decide what was more surprising: that Defoe had passed within sight of goal or that Sagna had lost concentration and inadvertently played Bale onside.
These are great days in the career of Bale who took his goal first time with the confidence of a man who has become a real favourite at White Hart Lane. Two goals ahead and the home fans sensed a historic evening in the making.
Wenger sent on Theo Walcott within 10 minutes of the goal but he waited until almost the last 20 minutes before he deployed Van Persie. The Dutch striker might be short of match fitness but even at half his usual capacity he gave Arsenal a completely different dimension. Three times Gomes denied Van Persie with stupendous saves.
The Tottenham goalkeeper also managed to push a header from Campbell onto the bar, an effort which might have caused a riot had it gone in. Gomes could do nothing about the cross from Walcott that Nicklas Bendtner scored from with five minutes of the game left to play.
The home fans may have feared that the traditional way at their club is to buckle under the kind of pressure that Arsenal exerted but this time they held on for a night – and a victory – that some here must have wondered whether they would ever see.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Kaboul, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Rose (Bentley, h-t), Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; Pavlyuchenko (Crouch, 88), Defoe (Gudjohnsen, 67). Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Bassong, K Walker, Livermore.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Almunia; Sagna (Walcott, 52), Campbell, Vermaelen (Silvestre, 20), Clichy; Eboué, Denilson (Van Persie, 67), Diaby; Nasri, Bendtner, Rosicky. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Eduardo, Merida, Eastmond.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
Booked: Tottenham Hotspur Modric, Kaboul, Modric; Arsenal Denilson.
Man of the match: Gomes.
Attendance: 36,041.Reuse content